'Let them spit on us': Marseille star hits out at firework hurler

Marseille (AFP) –


Marseille promised on Saturday to take action against the spectator who threw the firework that halted their home game against Lille for 35 minutes as one of their players said he'd rather be "spat on" than be placed in harm's way.

Marseille lost the Ligue 1 match, 2-1. They have been in free fall since the end of November, but on Friday the club's war with its fans again eclipsed the on-field crisis.

In the 57th minute, with Marseille already trailing, a firework landed on the touchline near two home players and an assistant. It then exploded.

"It hit me on the back," said Marseille's Jordan Amavi. "After it hit the ground it exploded next to my foot."

Amavi put his hands to his ears. Teammate Kevin Strootman rubbed his face.

Both, along with the official, were able to continue when the match resumed after referee Amaury Delerue had taken the teams off for more than half an hour.

Asked if he was angry at the fan after being hit by the firework, Amavi paused. Then he said: "Let them moan, let them spit on us because we're not good enough, okay. But this was something different. It's sad."

Marseille said they will take legal action against the unknown person who threw the firecracker.

But it was thrown quickly from the crowd and no identification has yet been possible, according to sources close to the case. The prosecutor happened to be at the match.

Marseille condemned the action of an individual but it is unlikely that the club will escape punishment.

The last incident of this kind in Ligue 1 was at the end of 2016 when Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was deafened and hurt by a firecracker in Metz. That game was abandoned.

The home club was originally punished with a three-point deduction, but that was suspended on appeal. The match, which Metz had been winning, was replayed in an empty stadium. Two fans were later convicted in court.

On Friday, the flaming projectile came from the Ganay Stand along the touchline, rather than the terracing behind the goals which had been grumbling with discontent all evening.

- 'Get your shirts sweaty' -

The two end stands are sulking. They are unhappy with the periodic terrace closures and travel bans because of their repeated detonation of flares and fireworks as well as a run of one win in 11 games.

Against Lille the fans behind the goals did not take their places until the 10th minute.

They then refused to cheer their team and instead displayed banners deriding American owner Frank McCourt, who was at match, coach Rudi Garcia, club president Jacques-Henri Eyraud and the players.

The only chants on Friday were one urging the players to "get your shirts sweaty or get lost" and their mantra: "We are OM!"

Strootman experienced similar fan hostility when he was with Roma.

"Playing in this environment is difficult," said the Dutch midfielder. "I understand a little bit, but for us it's difficult. It's like playing away."

The only glimmer through the smoke on Friday night was Mario Balotelli's brief debut off the bench.

In the frenzied finale, Balotelli had four strikes at goal in 20 minutes. That's twice as many as Kostas Mitroglu, who came off as the Italian came on, has managed in 222 minutes of football over seven matches.